Assyrian god by Harvard Avenue
“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth;
For the Lord speaks,
‘Sons I have reared and brought up
But they have revolted against Me.
An ox knows it owner,
And a donkey its master’s manger…
My people do not understand.’
Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the Lord,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.”
These are the words of God’s man, written over 2700 years ago.
They seem so similar to our situation today.
And an offer has been made to the disobedient:
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of you deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
The offer made to man 2700 years ago still stands. God’s redemptive work has been completed in our Savior’s great deed. All that is left is to trust and obey.
There is an old narrative that reminds me of the Church’s condition in our day.
Pull up a chair and see if my comparison is not true.
A little background before the report:
The Assyrian Empire was a ruthless and expansive bunch. It had been growing for 150 years before the days of Isaiah, terrifying any nation in its way. Israel had been paying tribute to Assyria at least 100 years when the words above were penned. It was a clear case of extortion. “You give us enough money and we’ll sort of leave you alone.”
When Isaiah was a young man, Assyria took the people of northern Israel into captivity. Eventually, those left in the south (Judah) had been wiped clean of anything worthwhile and now they were to become slaves.
Sennacherib’s Assyrian army was at the gates of Jerusalem, having destroyed at least 46 walled cities on its way there.
We know that Samaria fell in 721 B.C.
It is estimated that the following events took place around 700 B.C. (Some have pegged it to 701.)
The Assyrian army had already taken 200,000 captives in what was left of the nation. Only the remnant was left.
Christians find themselves in a similar situation today.
The following narrative occurs in the 36th chapter of Isaiah:
Sennacherib sent a messenger to speak to God’s people who were behind the walls of Jerusalem.
Here, I must make a quick note. I am not making an interpretation. The story and interpretation are easy in this case. I am only making the claim that similarities exist between the problems that faced God’s people almost three millennium ago and the ones they face today.
Sennacherib was as wily fellow; a “Worldly Wiseman.”
He sent a man who could speak to God’s people using their own language.
The man who spoke their language made sure that many heard his message. Those on the walls of Jerusalem heard it clearly.
“What is this confidence you have? On whom do you rely?”
Here is the representative of the evil one. He dares to question those who believe in the Lord.
The man who speaks their language makes a “deal” with God’s people.
“Come and make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them.”
He wants to “give” them something and mocks them in the same sentence.
How many within and without mock God’s people today?
The evil man’s spokesman continues:
“Thus says the King, ‘Do not let Hezekiah (God’s man) deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord.’”
He tells them he will help them, mocks them, and tells them not to trust in the Lord.
Then comes more poison posed as promise:
“Do not listen to Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us, this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ ”
King Sennacherib in Royal Dress/Photo from Bible History Online*
“Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, ‘Make peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern,
‘until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards.’”
This is a veiled attempt at making slavery a sweet condition.
Many promises of sweetness are presented to today’s Christian. They are promises that result in bondage.
“Your salvation is based on your performance.”
“You are a good person. Your goodness is the means for the attainment of your salvation.”
“Go deep into yourself. It is there that you will find the power to change your destiny.”
“You deserve to be blessed physically, personally, financially, and spiritually.”
“There is something wrong with you if you are not blessed physically, personally, financially, and spiritually.”
“It is God’s will for you to be blessed physically, personally, financially, and spiritually.”
“Give more to God and you will be blessed physically, personally, financially, and spiritually.”
“Sit in a certain position, repeat a word from the Bible over and over, and you will enter into God’s presence; into another state of consciousness.”
“You cannot get forgiveness by going directly to God. You must have a spiritual guide.”
“Your Spiritual Formation is essential to salvation.”
“The story of Jonah, like so many others, is only metaphoric.”
The representative of the evil one speaks loudly enough for many to hear. He attempts to use fear as a tool. He speaks using their own terminology.
He tells them they are doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine if they rely on the Lord.
“Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand that the Lord would deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”
Then the messenger left. It is a common tactic among the devious ones. Strike fear, wait, and let the other panic. Then return and continue the battle with a weaker foe.
When he left, the people of Jerusalem knew he would be back.
They were not disappointed.
The messenger returned and continued the volley.
Though the people of Jerusalem didn’t know how it would end, they chose to trust in the Lord. They chose the Lord over all of the false promises that resulted in slavery.
It would be better to die than to be a slave to a false god.
The rest of the account is found in the 37th chapter of Isaiah.
As it was then, it is now.
The people of God are besieged on every side.
It has always been so.
John H. Sammis gave up his life as a businessman and part-time YMCA worker to study for the ministry and become a pastor. He was sent.
It would be a mistake for a businessman to become a pastor if he is not sent. Most businessmen should not become Church pastors. Christian businessmen have their own ministries. God has friends in many places.
Mr. Sammis wrote the following words:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Isaiah and Hezekiah’s experience is relevant in 2011.
The offer, mentioned above and made 2700 years ago, to “Come now, and let us reason together,” still stands.
Anyone who says otherwise is a Worldly Wiseman.
*The photo can be seen here.
According to worldly standards, Judah was in an impossible situation. They were afraid and knew it was only a matter of time. Even Hezekiah was afraid. They were facing an impossible situation like their forefathers: an Egyptian army behind, and the sea before. Hezekiah laid the terms set out by Sennacherib on a sheet of paper before God in prayer (II Kings 19:14-37), ending with the statement “Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only.” God was glorified, and not with the help of human hands!
Speaking of being made white as snow, I find yet another amazing testimony leaving no doubt as to the Scriptures’ true Author in Psalm 51, where we encounter the phrase “whiter than snow”. With the advent of technology, we now know that the snowflake and a drop of rain are dependant on a dirt molecule to which the water molecule binds itself. God, knowing this, tells us that when we are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, we are made “whiter than snow”. Imagine that! In our earthly state, we’d certainly be blinded to behold that collective brilliance (I John 3:2)!
Thank you, Chris, for this very thoughtful devotion. It was a great blessing to be reminded of the many truths therein.
You’re welcome, Pearl.
And thank you for your kind and informative comment. I can relate well to the fear of Hezekiah. The prophet of God told him that all would be well and Hezekiah continued to worry. Wouldn’t it be great to have Isaiah around today, Pearl? And would our reaction be better than Hezekiah’s? I don’t know but I am concerned about how I might react. It is not something I think of daily, however, as we are told the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say at such a time.
Connecting Isaiah 1 to Psalm 51 makes perfect sense. I didn’t know that about snow. Washed and white at the same time – only our Creator would think of that.
For believers 1 John 3:2 is an amazing promise. The verse that precedes it describes those like the Assyrians. The world does not know us, because it does not know Him.
Always a blessing to hear your commentary.
Pearl! I love your nature analogies. Home schooling has very interesting perks!
Chris, this was great. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Dawnmarie. I’m happy to have readers who love God’s Word. I’m so glad you stopped by. My hope is that someone stumbles on this who doesn’t know that about sins being washed as white as snow.
Pearl’s kids are, indeed, blessed to have parents who have made their children a priority. It doesn’t surprise me.
Creation is one of my favorite subjects. It strikes in believers a tremendous awe toward God, and ultimately perplexes the lost.
Have you guys watched any of the classic “Moody Science” films? Coming from a scientific angle, they are all incredible sermons. I highly recommend the entire series for any age group: http://tinyurl.com/4ehmfv9
Sunday night around here is pizza night, where we usually pop in a creation video of some sort. Also, “God of Wonders” is mind-blowingly awesome. It you haven’t seen it, do so, and then pass it on to your wavering, unsaved friends/family:
It is one of my favorite subjects too, Pearl!
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
I’ve heard of this series, but do not have it. You haven’t steered me wrong yet, Pearl.
Seriously, I’m eating left-over pepperoni pizza while I sit here at the Center. As my family is running short on old movies obtained from the Library (our night is Friday), I may have to get these.
Thanks for sharing…
I’ve seen the Classic Moody series at our library. There are 19 in all. Do make sure you check out the ones featuring Dr. Moon, as I have found the most recent ones geered toward a younger audience slightly irritating.
Left-over pizza…I’m assuming it’s not cold, and based on the time, it’s also not your breakfast (this combination also falls under “dude food” 😉 ).
Thanks for the info, Pearl. I’ll check our library for it.
I’ll admit that the pizza was cold. Too much trouble to put it in the micro.
Definitely “dude food.”
Sins being washed white as snow. Such a sweet melody for a sick heart. Amazing most definitely.
I loved this!! The more I read my Bible, the more I am falling equally in love with the Old Testament. Beautiful lessons to be learned, amazing shadows of Christ, watching Christ guide Israel to live in faith, while still bearing the yoke of the law!
It makes me so sad to see how the modern church throws the Old Testament aside without much thought. It is our history, it is Christ’s history, from the foundation of the World! The New Testament is so incomplete without knowing the entire story of God.
I don’t think there is any part of the Bible that is not relevant to today!
Such an encouragement, Chris, thank you Brother.
And please, put down the dude food! It’s just not safe!
I enjoyed your comment. Your expression of your love of the Word, EVEN THE OLD TESTAMENT, is very refreshing.
It is very unfortunate that it is discarded and left to sit untouched by so many.
I am reading sections of Isaiah as I get time and WOW. It is amazing and, as you have noted, so relevant today.
About the dude food…
You’ll have a hard time taking it from me. I will admit, however, that I just about broke my toe when I dropped that cold piece of pizza I was eating the other day.
I will need to be more careful. Thank you for the warning.
Did you get more snow today, Chris? Ours started at lunchtime. I came home early from work because I am a real scaredypants about driving in the snow and my son got out of school early. As I sat by the window watching the snow fall this afternoon, I couldn’t help but dwell on Sister Pearl’s analogy.
I’m gonna have to get that creation series too, Pearl!
We had sunshine for a change today in Arkansas. I hope you enjoy that beautiful white stuff that covers all ugliness.
Get yourself a cup of hot chocolate and relax. Maybe you will have another snow day tomorrow.
May God bless you and yours…
Great posts Chris and all. I am sure you all remember the old song-“The Old is in the new revealed, the new is in the old concealed.”
It is sad that folks are missing out on the beauty of all of the Word of God. I have found memories of reading Exodus 25-32 and getting lost in the Lord and the sheer magnificence of the Tabernacle. What a breathtaking wonder to visualize the white fine linen and the cunning art work. All the furniture etc. What a portrait of Jesus.
Reflecting on the fact that He had them carry His presence externally, as compared to us who are blessed with His Holy Spirit internally.
We are of all people most blessed.
I’m not familiar with that hymn but it sounds like a good one. I sing out of an old hymn book at my church and some of the truths in those old hymns are rarely heard in the new ones today. I must admit, however, that I don’t listen to much of the new stuff.
I was listening to an “old” cassette tape (1985) by Zola Levitt just today. He was a “Messianic Jew” who died not that long ago. The series (It’s more than one tape) speaks of the wonderful promises of the Old Testament prophets and how they were fulfilled in the New Testament. Zola also touched on the prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming. His understanding of the O.T. from the Jewish perspective is refreshing. He would say “What a portrait of Jesus” with you, Manny.
To your words:
“Reflecting on the fact that He had them carry His presence externally, as compared to us who are blessed with His Holy Spirit internally.
We are of all people most blessed.”
I say “Amen and Amen.”